Made You Look is an American crime documentary about the largest art fraud in American history set in the super rich, super obsessed and super fast art world of New York. Written and directed by Barry Avrich, Made You Look is an intriguing exploration concerning the dichotomy between the perceived value of art and the twisted narcissistic behaviour wrapped up in the ownership of art pieces.
Anyone even vaguely familiar with art history will be all too aware that art and patronage have always gone hand in hand and all too often the very livelihoods of artists have depended not so much on the inherent value of the art itself but the prestige and glory that is somehow reflected onto the patrons of said art. From the Medici family mansions to the auction rooms of Sotheby’s, art has become the plaything of the wealthy and powerful.
This cold hard fact is perhaps the only way to explain why a renowned gallery, together with experienced art dealers, experts and critics were so willingly duped by fake works of art for over 20 years. Plainly speaking, a conspiracy involving a Chinese copyist, Spanish forger and American dealer passed off fake works as genuine new discoveries from the oeuvre of Rothko, Pollock, Motherwell at al – a scam that saw these fakes being purchased by wealthy collectors for millions of dollars.
At the centre of this storm is Ann Freedman, the president of the Knoedler & Company art gallery that dealt with these works of art as the middleman. Freedman maintains that she was as much a victim as the collectors, though more than one person interviewed in the documentary express doubts as to Freedman’s innocence. Complicit or naive? While it seems hard to believe that a seasoned art dealer like Freedman could be so easily fooled, it must be noted in her defence that she had numerous experts confirm the authenticity of the various fakes.
Thus the question arises as to whether everyone involved were willing to close their eyes and shut down their minds because of the money values that were being thrown around, not to mention the significance of these works of art if proven genuine. Ego and greed all intertwined.
Intriguing stuff for sure, confirmed by the news that Made You Look will be adapted into a feature film to begin production in 2022. Certainly, then it would be interesting to see how the story is dramatised especially with regards to Freedman’s role in the scandal. In the meantime, Made You Look is certainly worth your time, especially if you are a bit of an art buff.
Now streaming on Netflix.
… still there’s more …